Tag Archives: Church

To Him Be Glory in the Church!

For the past few weeks Joe has reminded us of a verse (3:20) from Paul’s prayer (3:14-21) written in his letter to the Ephesians.  I absolutely love this verse!  Paul gets caught up in the greatness of God and the power He supplies His people for His Kingdom purpose.  Joe used verse 20 because it is there that Paul makes his point about God’s ability to do immeasurably, unimaginably more than all we ask.  As we set our goal of living this Christian life Unleashed, let us by no means fix a limit in our minds of what God can do in us.

It may have occurred to you that verse 20 ends with a comma, at least in most versions.  Paul includes all three parts of the trinity to make his point for us, but I have to include verse 21 to show you.

“Now to him (God the Father) who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power (Holy Spirit) that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”(NIV) Eph 3:20-21

God sent the Holy Spirit for a solitary purpose –to glorify his Son, Jesus.  The purpose of God’s power, which is given us through the Holy Spirit, is to build His church and to bring glory to Him, in Christ Jesus.  We glorify Christ, Christ glorifies his Father.  Part of unleashing God’s power in our lives is that we align our motives with God’s purpose – “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.”

Warren Wiersbe puts it this way; “If our motive is to glorify God by building His Church, then God will share His power with us.  The power of the Spirit is not a luxury; it is a necessity.”

To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.

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Obstacles to Worship 2: Sick and Tired

Part two of the obstacles to worship series comes on the back end of my sick week.  Last week I had the respiratory bug and lost my voice for the weekend.  I can’t even put to words how frustrating and discouraging this was.  By Sunday morning I felt better except that I was a little tired and my voice  made me sound like Lurch from the Adams Family; only shorter.

I was forced to offer worship to God without using my voice. No Singing! If I tried, very little came out.  I did not feel so bad that I could not attend worship, so I came to worship.  Physically I was present, but I had to engage myself into worship in a different mode.  I believe that scripture is very clear in that we are all to “sing our praises to the Lord.”  Sunday morning I longed to sing at the top of my lungs but it was not to be.  I felt chipper, joyful, but no joyful noise would come forth.  Could I really lead worship without a voice?

I could and I did with the help of my team.  Here’s how;

  • The early service was, in some ways a easier and in some ways more difficult.
  1. I was able to hand of the congregational leading to a faithful choir member.
  2. I could still direct the choir special – (my voice loss hadn’t affected my arms.) However–
  3. In the traditional setting where only two instruments play the accompaniment and the congregation’s only mode of participation is “stand and sing” I was unable to worship out loud.  I could lead the choir and that was it. So I was only actively participating on that one song.  Clapping isn’t a regular practice in that setting, so my hands were useless as a praise instrument.  I stood on the front row and smiled.  If the bass part descended into my range I grunted a few notes.
  • The second service also had it’s limitations and opportunities.
  1. I handed off the song intros to a praise team member. And another praise team member was already carrying the melody. (A team of vocalists is effective at leading worship and is also a built in back up plan when I can’t lead.)
  2. I could still play guitar and lead the band on all the worship music.  This was very close to full participation to me.  I really felt like I was worshiping even though my voice wasn’t a part of the offering.  (Were I not playing guitar I would have been clapping.)
  3. I smiled.  When I think about the Lord, He makes me smile.  I can’t help it.  Smiling leads people in worship.  Even when I’m not singing, I can communicate the joy of the Lord with a smile.  I’m always preaching to the choir that they need to smile, so I made certain that my discouragement about not having a voice didn’t derail my heart from worshiping.

Worshipers and worship leaders, what do you do when you aren’t quite yourself on a Sunday morning?  Do you give up and go home or come and observe as a non-participant?  How do you find ways to join God’s people in praise when you just don’t have it?


Because He Lives

Why do we sing the songs we sing in worship?  What makes them appropriate?  Are worship pastors purposeful in the songs we select or guilty of picking their favorites or the songs most requested by others?

The only true “series” I keep with on this blog is the “Why do we sing that?” series.  I like series, but I just haven’t found the kinds of serial topics that work with my designated purpose for the Schoeneblog. Yes Wiseheimer, the Schoeneblog has a purpose.  If you missed it, I blogged about it here.

A couple weeks ago we sang the great hymn by Bill and Gloria Gaither, “Because He Lives.”  You know the song.  We’ve sung it in our churches for years.

Because He Lives

Verse 1
God sent His Son they called Him Jesus
He came to love heal and forgive
He bled and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove
My Savior lives

Chorus 1
Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives

“Because He Lives” is a great song and I will continue to slot it into services of worship when it is the right fit for that particular Sunday. But I want to use it as an example of the positive and negative potential of a song that has been in our lives for an extended time.   I’ll start with the positive power of such a song.

  • The positive influence of Familiarity. Songs can become the sound track for our daily living.  Worship songs remind us of truth that Jesus lives.  We live with this truth directing our steps each day.
  • The positive side of Sentiment.  A song can bring us back to a moment when God was performing a particular work within us.  When we hear that song again, we are reminded that God is active and working in our lives.  We also are reminded of the commitment of surrender that we have mad to Him.  We can also be reminded of the great heritage of faith that passed the songs down to us.

Okay, now for the disappointing news.

  • Familiarity can breed apathy. When we become too accustomed to a song we tend to mentally “check out” during worship.  The is something we should never do since we are instructed to Love the Lord with all your heart with all your mind and with all your strength. I realize that people can “check out” during a new song as well, but right now I’m reminding us of the adage that familiarity breeds apathy.
  • Sentiment can deter our focus. If a song has attached itself to a particular memory or feeling, we tend to give our hearts permission to remain in that memory rather than participate in the presence of Holy God. For me, I can’t hear “In the Garden” without thinking of a casket.  It doesn’t make it a bad song. It just makes it a challenge for me to focus my worship on God.

When we sing songs in worship that we have heard at least 50 plus times, we are prone to the apathy that comes with familiarity and the sinful side of sentiment.  But it doesn’t have to be so!  As you see, there are great benefits that can only be reached by repeating a powerful song often enough that it becomes a helpful companion on your faith journey.

I thank God for the song Because He Lives.  As a child standing on the pew and peeking over the top of the shared hymnal between my mother and father, the song made it clear to me that Jesus is alive!  And it reminds me still today!  The fact that He Lives propels everything we do as a church family and as followers.  At FSBC, it’s the first three words of our purpose statement.

Because Jesus Lives! FSBC exists as a local body of Christ to: worship God; share the love and Good News of Jesus Christ with our community and the world: encourage and equip believers in the faith; and serve others with mercy and love.

It is implied in our statement of mission: Connecting people with God and one another. We seek to connect people to a LIVING God. Were Jesus not living, we would pursue our mission statement in vain.


Keep Sowing

Remembering that Christ used seed as parable on multiple occasions, please read my following story with your spiritual eyes wide open.

There’s just something very refreshing about coming home from work and walking out to the garden with fresh seeds.  That’s what I got to do Monday evening.  After I pulled into the driveway, carried my backpack in and set it by the sofa, I kissed my wife on the face and asked “where’s my packets of seeds?” I hadn’t needed them since I planted in the spring.  That was months ago so I lost track.  I found my seed and tromped out to my garden spots determined to sow a little hope.

In the spring I had such high hopes for a garden that would feed us a bounty of fresh food.  I sowed tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, carrots, radishes, snow peas, onions, garlic, strawberries, basil and asparagus.  I knew that it would take a couple years for the strawberries and asparagus, but there would be plenty of other vegetables to feed us over the summer months.

But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.” 1 Kings 17:7

Fortunately I started my garden earlier than I normally do.  I had some nice radishes and we really enjoyed the snow peas but it went downhill fast after that. I waited and waited to get some nice peppers but only had four all season from four pepper plants. Onions = 0, Carrots = 0, Garlic = 0, Strawberries = 7 tiny ones (but small enough to add up to one barely full sized berry.) If it weren’t for the lettuce and tomatoes we got to enjoy, we would still have lived like those who think that food only comes from the grocery store.

I have had several gardens through the years, good ones too.  Everyone’s gardens suffered this year from the extreme heat and drought.  I don’t begrudge or complain. Because I enjoy gardening and the taste of fresh produce I won’t stop planting.  In order for us to enjoy the fruits once again, we have to labor in the garden where life is yearning to burst forth.  So many of my little seed packets offered two seasons for planting April-May and July-August.  It’s not too late to work toward a harvest in the autumn season, so I will sow more seed and keep sowing seed.

Father, would You bring the rain of Your word once again to so many who are thirsty for You.  Help our churches to sow the seed of Christ into the souls who long to taste the freshness of new life in You.  Even we who are in You are hungry for a fresh work of Your power in our day.  We repent from our dry season of complaining about the weather and harsh conditions of our culture.  You have commanded us to sow Christ.  We ask You to let Your healing rain fall on us once again. -Amen.

Have you suffered a dry season in your life and recovered to see a season of growth and strength?  Have you asked Christ to do something new and bold in your life lately?  Have you given up on a friend only to share Jesus at a later date and find your friend surprisingly receptive?


Sing, Sing, Sing!

I’ve been a worship pastor for 18 years.  Much has changed for us with regard to worship in the church.  New technologies such as big screens with moving video backgrounds have found a home in our places of worship.  That’s not a bad thing!  It’s also not the “bees knees” as they say.  Well some people use that phrase.
It seems that the one thing that unites the churches of God today is that we love to fight about worship style.  As Stephen would say – “You stiff-necked people!”  GET OVER IT!  Are you too blind to see that it is not the Father who has caused you to be so opinionated about music or to prefer a certain style?  No, it is the evil one who divides us.  Too many of you have chosen to love your music style more than you love the One you’re attempting to sing to. You have forgotten your audience is the living God.  He is not impressed by your style!  He is interested in your broken and contrite hearts! Psalm 51.
When did it happen that we began to replace loving God with music appreciation?  Do we really expect that God will one day place a crown on our head and say; “I’m so glad you forced your new songs into the the fabric of church life, totally relevant, dude?” or will He say “Thank you for fighting to keep hymns in the church.  Those are my favorites too?”  Absolutely Not!
I understand all the reasons and all the arguments people offer for adding technology and for calling upon various styles and they are not bad reasons.  We want to be relevant in our methods.  This is a good thing.  We desire to sing our songs in musical languages that our guests, who may not have a church background, can understand. This is noble. I’m in agreement with these motivations, however (COMMA, DOT, DOT, DOT) let us keep our primary motivation for music and its accompanying technologies centered on Christ.
Colossians 3:16Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
The psalms and hymns and spiritual songs help us fill our lives with the richness of Christ.  We sing the attributes to God to remind ourselves, Who it is we worship.  We sing out the truth about God’s love for us as an encouragement to each another.  We sing our praises to God out of thankfulness for all He has done and all He will do.  The body encourages the body.  There is just something about singing it out loud that helps us internalize the richness of Jesus and allows Him to fill up our lives.  It can’t be reproduced by listening to a song on the radio.  It must be done out loud and in cooperation. (It is called cooperate worship, right?)
Sing, Sing, Sing! People of God, sing TO each other and be encouraged. Sing WITH each other to God and give Him thanks and praise. Sing AS ONE body and dwell in unity!  This is what psalms and hymns and spiritual songs can help us do.  What God meant as a tool to remind us to be filled with His richness and to unify us, the evil one has used to divide us.  The evil one has no greater joy than dividing the people of God.
Father, forgive me when my pride has derailed my best efforts to worship You.  At times I have made an idol out of my own tastes and traditions.  Forgive me, Lord, when I’ve failed to encourage others because I pretended that style was synonymous with worship.  I long to be filled with the richness of Christ and to encourage others to be filled with the same.  Help me use ALL psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, new and old, as a medium for the body to worship and give thanks as one.

Love Deeper (oh to be the kind of worshiper the Father seeks)

Have you ever sat in a restaurant and, overhearing the conversation at the table next to you, wish you could pull up a chair and listen, or even join in?
Today, at lunch, I overheard five men who were engaged in a conversation regarding the worship at their church.  Scratch that. Two men were talking and the other three were listening.  Four, if you count my wandering ear.  But I really couldn’t hear everything that was said.  You see, the music in the restaurant was too loud… (irony?)… maybe.  So you understand why I wanted to pull up a chair?
From what I could make out, the man doing most of the talking was expressing his resistance to the addition of guitar and drums.  He didn’t seem angry, just resistant.  He admitted that there was nothing “technically” wrong with guitar and drums in worship.  It’s just that he was, well, uncomfortable with them.  He didn’t like it.  He said He found himself gripping the back of the pew as they all stood and sang along and when the songs were over and he could let go to sit down, he felt relieved.  He seemed to regretted how he felt, but he wanted to be honest about it.
His friend was trying to encourage him, saying that the church needed to be relevant to the culture.  He seemed to agree and commenced to chase a rabbit wondering if it was society in general that rubbed him the wrong way; too noisy, impatient, self-absorbed, performance oriented.  And he just didn’t want to see that happen in his church.  My mind wandered after that and it sounded like their conversation did too.  I found myself thanking God that theirs was a pleasant conversation between brothers and that there was a “Truth in Love” aroma to it (and a hint of moo goo gai pan).
As a worship leader veteran of 18 years, I may have heard it all; all the complaints, criticisms, humble questions & sincere support.  I’ve received my share of anonymous letters; “God hates rock music” “Rock music has no place in the church”  “drums are a tool of the devil.”  Some of the most non-biblical statements I’ve ever heard within the church have been about worship.  And I think all our self-righteous and self-wrongness about worship comes down to us using a wrong criteria when we evaluate worship.
How do we evaluate worship?  This is a tricky business.  First, let me say, as a worship leader, I’m appreciative of every compliment I’ve received over the years.  Please don’t stop.  Your loving words are a wonderful encouragement for me.  I love my calling and my job.  And I love the people that God, in His grace, has allowed me to serve over the years.
It seems to me that most of our evaluating statements regarding our worship services utilize the words “like” and “I” a little too often.
Now, I’m not offering condemnation here.  I want to be a better worshiper!  I don’t have all the answers.  I’m still looking and learning.  I’m seeking here, to discern the premise of our worship evaluation.  I think every worshiper would agree that we worship because God commands us to in His Word.  And, moreover, we would probably agree that we worship because God is deserving of our worship.  Why then, when we evaluate worship, do we seek to resolve whether or not WE “liked it?”  Shouldn’t we be asking God what He wants?
Our worship evaluation gets off track very quickly if it doesn’t begin with this question; “God, how do You want your people to worship You?”  If we first seek to satisfy this question we are led to verses like Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart.”  When was the last time you and I left worship with a broken and repentant heart?
We are also led to verses like Romans 12:1 “give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you”  OUR WHOLE SELVES!! “This is truly the way to worship him”  Do we come to worship service seeking to offer ourselves to God?  Or are we interested only what we can get from it?  Are we looking for a tingly feeling and calling it worship?  We should be throwing our lives at His feet, begging and pleading to give Him more, all of ourselves.  Instead, we can’t get out the door fast enough when worship is over.  We start checking the clock on our phone fifteen minutes into the sermon.  We prefer to sit instead of stand through the singing because our feet hurt or our back hurts or we stayed up to late last night.  We worship a Savior who had nails hammered into his feet and hands and we can’t stand for 10 minutes of singing to Him? Or sit through 30 minutes of Bible teaching?  What must God think of that kind of worship offering?  No wonder we don’t asking Him if He felt worshiped.  We probably wouldn’t like His answer.
We should be begging to stay and to sing one more song or pray one more prayer and hear one more testimony of how great our Lord is and what miracles He has done in the lives of those who surrender to Him.  “More, more! I’m not done yet.  Let me stay. Let me sing one more sing, fast or slow, I don’t care,  I MUST declare the greatness of God!”
When the service is over, may we no longer ask “Did I like this worship service?”  but instead, ask “Did God enjoy my worship?”  “Did we worship in a way that was worthy of the One we worship?”  Instead of saying “that was a great sermon” let us declare “Oh, what a great and marvelous God is our God.”  Rather than saying we like or didn’t like the music, may we proclaim “Oh, how I love Jesus!”
The growing intensity of my tone here is meant to reveal that I long to be that kind of worshiper.
If we are going to Love our God Deeper, then He will shine through in the way we worship and the way we think about worship.

Father, oh how easily my eyes drift from You.  Forgive me when I’m more disheartened by the lack of singing than I am by missing the presence of Your Spirit.  And when I’m more impressed by loud singing than by the greatness of You, please forgive me.  I am humbled in Your presence and I am a beggar, desperate for a few crumbs from Your table, yet you are inviting me to pull up a chair and sit in the place of honor with You as Your beloved child.  Thank You for what Your grace means in my life.

Do any of my thoughts here resonate with you?  Are you needing a freshness to come back to your worship?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Live Like You Were Dying (a confession)

My church (FSBC Lawrence, KS) is beginning a new spiritual campaign. Building off the popular song by Tim McGraw, we’re asking ourselves “What would we do if we learned we had only 30 days to live?”
I have found myself inspired by this question. For 2 months I’ve prepared for the campaign and in my review of the studies, I recognized how often I take this life for granted. Days pass and weeks, where I put off the things that matter most, in the name of working harder. It seems valiant sometimes for ministers to sacrifice for the sake of their churches. Some churches have even come to expect it, having become accustomed to pastors who have given more than should be expected. But this blog isn’t about churches expectations on pastors. It’s about pastors unrealistic expectations on themselves. Or, to be more specific, this pastor of worship’s unrealistic expectations on himself.

I’ll say upfront that I’m much better than I used to be. There was a time when I felt guilty when taking a vacation. If I sat down to read a fiction novel I would get a pain in my gut because I wasn’t using my time to study. It was difficult for me to enjoy my time with my kids, though I loved them very much. During this time I poured myself into my job and wrongfully looked for approval from the church I served only to be disappointed over and over again.

I hid my disappointments from my wife and glued a fake smile on my face for my kids. This robbed Mel of the calling God had given her – supporting a husband in ministry. Being robbed of the opportunity to fulfill one of her callings was discouraging to her and made our marriage strain. My kids, I’m sure saw me more as worship pastor than as dad, and that is a mistake I can never undo.

My upside-down paradigm of leadership (work harder, longer – neglect family and self) also lead to professional frustration. I’m sure that most of my failings came not from lack of work, but rather from a lack of balance. It is not possible to be successful in ministry following a set of rules that are out of balance with God’s grace.

No one on their death bed ever says “I wish I would have made more money.” or “I wish I would have spent more hours at work and less with family.” On the contrary, more regret spending so little time with family or regret the selfishness of their lives. Ty Cobb, who achieved wealth and fame said this at the end of his life; “I wish I had more friends.” only 3 baseball players attended his funeral in 1961.

God has, more than once, brought it to my attention that, most of the time, I’m not the father, husband or Christ follower that I should be. Jesus died so that my life would be more than this. Why have I allowed status quo? Why have I bought into the “do more/try harder” nomenclature?

Father, help me stand secure in your grace. It is enough. My pride and insecurity lead me down a path of guilt. I feel guilty when I don’t produce the result I think I should, but you have simply called me to be faithful. I trust you for results that fit your plans. I will be faithful. I become defensive when I look to satisfy my insecurity with achievement or adulation from others. Help me to find all the security I need at the foot of your cross. It is enough. Help me to be humble enough to forgive others and courageous enough to seek forgiveness.

What does it mean to you do “Live Like You Were Dying?” In what ways do you want to see more of Jesus in the way you live? Please leave comments below.


Soups On!

Each January for the last several years, we as a staff, have made soup and served our Senior Adults the lunch at their monthly fellowship here at First Southern in Lawrence. (We mooch off them the rest of the year) They, of course, provided many desserts which we were only too happy to help eat.
I LOVE serving these great members of our church. So many of them have been extremely kind and encouraging toward me and my family over the many years we have served FSBC. It is my delight to give back to them every opportunity I have.
I hope and pray that they know how valuable they continue to be to their staff and to this church. These dear ones aren’t just our churches history but our present as well. These are Bible Study Teachers, Deacons, Choir Members, Accompanists, Prayer Warriors, Missions Givers, Missions Goers, and part of the heartbeat of this church.
Providing the soup meal today was our way of saying that you are a part of the very important ingredients in the substance of this church. Thanks you for all you do.

Please leave a comment below in appreciation for the senior adults in your life.